My secret: The Internet Archive

Internet Archive founder Brewster Kahle showing off one of beloved 78 rpm records on a century-old Victor Talking Machine.

After I put Drive-Ins of New Mexico to bed (mostly) last week, I had the rare opportunity to visit one of the best sources for my research. The Internet Archive is accessible through the internet from anywhere, but to tour the physical plant, you need to be in the right place on a Friday afternoon.

The Archive, perhaps best known for the Wayback Machine of preserved web pages, also hosts the Media History Digital Library for the Wisconsin Center for Film & Theater Research. That’s a huge resource for drive-in theater history, especially up to 1955 or so.

And that’s not all. Browsing around a couple of years ago, I found a collection of Motion Picture Heralds from 1950 to 1954. Another section includes bound copies of California Highways and Public Works, another 1950s publication full of aerial photos in the public domain. There are probably more research resources that I haven’t discovered yet.

Then there’s the content. There’s a section of Drive-In Movie Ads to use for your own intermission trailers. There are thousands of Feature Films to put together your own double features around the intemissions. Or if you want someone else to do all that for you, there’s a series of prepackaged Shocker Internet Drive-Ins.

If you want something that’s not drive-in related, the Archive has over two million books available. For music, you can choose from over 100,000 LPs. And then there’s the collection that I think is founder Brewster Kahle’s favorite: over 400,000 78 rpm and cylinder records.

Really, I’ve just scratched the surface in this post. Go wander around the Archive the way you would any other extensive library. I’m sure that you’ll find something you didn’t expect, and something that you’ll love.

Video: Check out the Chama drive-in

Roger Hogan’s drone view of the Chama Drive-In from 2018

Sometimes I don’t need a good excuse to share a video. But I’ve got one anyway. I’m finishing my next book, Drive-Ins of New Mexico, which is how I found out about the one in little Chama there.

Back in 1996, Albuquerque Journal writer Toby Smith had a story about the state’s old drive-ins. He included a sidebar where he mentioned most of them. “One drive-in, in Chama,” he wrote, “called itself Kelly’s, after the resident who owned it”. I was amazed, because that drive-in never showed up on any of the industry lists.

Digging into my reference works, I found out that Michael Kelly returned from serving in World War II and soon began running the indoor Rainbow Theatre in Chama. A few years later (this video says 1960), he built a small drive-in south of town. I only have access to scattered local newspapers, but I know that the Rainbow Drive-In advertised in June 1968. When Kelly died in 1978, Boxoffice remembered him as the operator of the Rainbow Theatre and the Chama Drive-In. So I’m not sure what to call this drive-in.

The story got better. A few years ago, a local group called Elevate Chama started hosting movies and other events on the old drive-in grounds. If they run enough of them, I ought to add the Chama drive-in to the Carload active list. Hmmm.

Anyway, I also found this drone’s-eye view of Chama’s drive-in, posted five years ago on YouTube by Roger Hogan, aka Wacky Roger. It’s been too long since I posted a good drone video, so here you go. I’ll let you know when the book is available.

How are you doing?

For this cropped bit of stock photography, do you know which drive-in was holding this religious service? I sure don’t. © Depositphotos / everett225

Hi there! Are you well? I sure hope so. I’m sorry and a little embarrassed to have left you without fresh posts for so long. 2020 has been a very strange year, and its effect on drive-ins has also been very strange. Writing about anything so small and relatively unimportant feels like The News for Parrots, but this is a drive-in theater blog.

First, this new blog theme is jarring, but a WordPress update broke the menus on the theme I had been using. I’ll need some time to find a good replacement with a dark background like a drive-in Saturday night. At least this one still seems okay on phones as well as desktops.

Now, about my absence here for a few months. At the start, I was researching my next drive-in book, Drive-Ins of Colorado. That book should be out around the end of September, a date which seems much closer than it used to. Then the pandemic hit, locking out all in-person research tools and making me question what’s really important in life. The feeling passed after a few weeks, and I went back to work on the Colorado book and on updating last year’s book, Drive-Ins of Route 66.

Two quick notes: If you have any photos of Colorado’s drive-ins, especially those that aren’t active any more, that you’d like to offer for inclusion into that book, please drop me a line at mkilgore (at) carload.com by August 24. And if you would like to peruse a first draft PDF (free, and worth every penny) of the book in exchange for noticing my mistakes, send me an email at the same address. That PDF should be ready before Labor Day.

Oh, yes, the blog. There has been too much news about drive-ins this year. Some were blocked from opening. Others were encouraged to open. Concession stands were closed. Concessions were being sold at the box office. Some drive-ins reopened their concession stands and returned to the practice of blocking outside food. Pop-up drive-ins sprouted all over. Nobody had any fresh movies to show.

I feel especially bad about not really being able to maintain the list of active drive-ins. What’s there is correct as of January 2020, but what does an accurate list look like today? What does it mean when an established drive-in can’t open because of state or local mandates? When a pop-up opens in an indoor theater parking lot, is that really a new drive-in?

All of this is one tiny part of world upheaval. Over half a million painful deaths from the Covid virus. Society mostly shut down, then partially reopened into partial paranoia. A growing awareness that persons of color are less likely to have successful interactions with law enforcement than pale folks like me. Discussions of moving election dates, deciding which votes to count, and what are okay ways to vote. (Carload World HQ is in Colorado, an all-mail ballot state, yet I don’t feel corrupt.)

That’s why it’s hard for me to generate sufficient enthusiasm to relay a summary of the upcoming Metallica concert for drive-ins, or the new pop-up Motorama in Santa Fe NM, or even winds knocking down the long-closed Hill-Top’s screen in Joliet IL, although I do need to update the Route 66 book for that last one. I’ll drop by again when I have more news of my Colorado book, and maybe I’ll also find something else I’d enjoy sharing with you. Thanks always for dropping by.